Is Your Hand Sanitizer Safe?

By Vicky Uhland

As runny noses run amok and swine flu fears multiply, medical professionals urge us to zap illness-causing bacteria by washing our hands regularly. But what happens when you’re stuck in an elevator full of sneezers with nary a sink in sight? More and more people are opting for hand sanitizers. Yet while studies show that regular spritzes of these antimicrobial concoctions can help fight colds and flu, they may cause other health complications. The Environmental Working Group warns against this toxic trifecta of common hand-san ingredients: triclosan or triclocarban (disrupts sex hormones), benzalkonium chloride (may compromise the immune system), and ethanol alcohol (can cause skin irritation, and there are reports of alcohol poisoning in children who drink hand sanitizers). Opt for products that kill bacteria with antimicrobial essential oils instead. We like:

Just Naturals & Co. All Natural Hand Sanitizer. Blast bugs with antibacterial witch hazel and lime and tea tree oils. $3, 1 oz; justnaturalproducts.com

CleanWell All-Natural Hand Sanitizer. Thyme, oregano, orange, and litsea (an evergreen tree) oils kill 99.99 percent of germs, according to lab tests. $3, 1 oz; cleanwelltoday.com

Clean George Hand Purifier. Manuka and tea tree oils mix with essential oils in three scent combos. $10, 2 oz; cleangeorge.com